WASHINGTON (March 30, 2006) — Results from a supplemental analysis of data reveal that the sharp decrease in reports of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clerics in recent years is an accurate reflection of a reduction in the number of cases of abuse, both known and unknown.
This is the first of the major conclusions from the Supplemental Data Analysis done by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the data gathered for its report on the "Nature and Scope of the Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Clergy 1950-2002" released in February, 2004.
Other than a higher rate of abusive behavior among diocesan clergy than religious clergy, another conclusion is that "there were no other distinguishable differences" between the diocesan clergy and the clergy who belong to religious institutes who were accused of abusive behavior. Also "there are indications that those dioceses in which church leaders took prompt and decisive action had fewer reports of abuse and fewer reports of severe abuse."
In addition, priests accused of only one event of sexual abuse are similar to other clergy accused of abusive behavior, but they "show evidence of greater self-control or self-correction." For priests with both single and multiple allegations, the abusive behavior began "after a significant period in ministry." The average time in ministry at the time of the first allegation is 11 years. Based on data gathered for the original study, for all but the small group of highly abusiveoffenders there seem to be "no clear, early indications of risk" for abusive behavior. In fact, the early offending (shortly after ordination) is a clear early indicator for those active ones.
The report also concludes that "controlling situational factors, i.e., opportunities, offers the greatest potential for protection of all in the Church community (priests, children, families). Education about the problem of sexual abuse is the most recognized pathway to the safety of all."
The supplemental data analysis was carried out by Karen Terry, Ph.D., author of Sexual Offenses & Offenders: Theory, Practice, and Policy, and Margaret Leland Smith, ABD. They were, respectively, the principal investigator and the data analyst as they were for the original study. As with the original study, James Levine, Ph.D., was the administrative coordinator. Jeremy Travis is president of John Jay College.
The Supplemental Data Analysis can be found at www.usccb.org.